Freedom of expression

#KeepItOn: Millions in India facing internet shutdowns amid protests


Right now people in cities all across India are being cut off from the internet, as well as voice call and SMS text services, as protests against the country’s new citizenship law gain momentum.

On December 12, the Government of India headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi passed the Citizenship Amendment Act, which makes it easier for people in three neighboring countries to gain Indian citizenship, so long as they identify with one of several non-Muslim faiths. People across the country, including students at more than 50 universities, are staging protests to reject these dangerous and discriminatory policies, but they have been met with police brutality, government orders preventing public assembly, and widespread disruption to communications services.

Most recently, on December 19, the Union Government ordered telecom service providers in Delhi to block internet and mobile services in parts of the capital where journalists are headquartered and where people were planning to peacefully protest.

But this kind of suppression of free speech has already been ongoing in the border region of Jammu and Kashmir since August. After more than 70 years of autonomy, the national government revoked legislation that allowed the majority-Muslim region to maintain its own constitution, flag, and governing authority. This shutdown has been going on for so long, people’s WhatsApp accounts are being deactivated for lack of use, and their friends and families outside the region no longer know how to reach them.

Cutting people off from the internet is a violation of human rights and is fundamentally undemocratic. These restrictions limit freedom of expression, deny access to information, and put people in harm’s way.

Take action now to stand with the people of India in calling on the government to immediately restore access to the internet and other communications services across the country and to #KeepItOn.

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